The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and Navya, a leading French autonomous mobility company, announced it would be holding a demonstration of two-vehicle shuttle platooning at the JFK Aqueduct Parking Lot, the first-of-its-kind at a North American airport. The three-day demonstration began on Oct. 17, and will demonstrate two eight-passenger electric autonomous vehicle (AV) shuttles in a platoon to simulate how AV technology could serve passengers in the future.
AV technology in public transit is envisioned to move passengers safely and efficiently in an airport environment. Platooning is an important feature for AVs as it allows for multiple autonomous vehicles to travel in unison, significantly increasing the number of passengers who can be transported in a single movement. In the future, AVs may be used for short connections that passengers typically make on foot, such as first-mile/last-mile trips. For example, AVs could get passengers to a commuter rail station, a distant airport rental car facility, or from an AirTrain station to the furthest ends of long-term parking lots.
The Port Authority issued a Request for Innovation to over a dozen leading AV companies in an effort to advance this pilot this year. Respondents were scored based on their ability to provide a safe demonstration of platooning technology within the desired timeframes of the agency.
The autonomous vehicles will be operated by an onboard safety operator at all times and supervised by Navya’s control center in Michigan. The vehicles have eight lidar sensors, and the pilot will be conducted in an area of the parking lot closed to the general public.
“This demonstration is an opportunity to evaluate and test new and emerging technology to improve our customer experience,” said Port Authority Chairman Kevin O’Toole. “We continue to see the importance of offering customers innovative and world-class services in response to their needs.”
“The Port Authority has been laser-focused on cutting-edge technological advancements, and we are happy to be participating in this first-of-its-kind exploration of autonomous vehicle use in an airport application,” said Port Authority Executive Director Rick Cotton. “Our innovation group is also in touch with other transit and airport agencies around the country to establish best practices in the use of autonomous vehicles to provide 21st-century transportation options in the region.”
“The upcoming demonstration represents the first platooning test at an American airport,” said Navya CEO Sophie Desormière. “We are excited to be a part of it as our expertise in AV technology includes solutions for the transportation of people and goods.”
This pilot follows a successful demonstration earlier this year of platooning and lane-keeping technology on retrofitted buses in the Port Authority’s Exclusive Bus Lane (XBL), which is used to expedite bus travel into and out of the Lincoln Tunnel during rush hours. The Port Authority and New Jersey Transit plan to continue working together on using AV technology to improve the capacity of the lane.